Years ago, one of my favorite undergraduate professors advised me to make sure and figure out exactly what job I want to end up in before enrolling in any sort of graduate program. He said it was just fine to go into undergrad unsure of your exact direction, but his belief was that for grad school it was necessary to have a specific career in mind. In part thanks to his advice, I didn’t leap into a graduate program right after completing my bachelor’s degree, but instead worked in the nonprofit sector and then taught public high school for several years here in North Carolina. Along the way, thanks to these work experiences as well as some great volunteer opportunities, it became clear to me that I wanted to end up in a career providing therapy to children and adolescents. Once I knew that, it took very little time to determine that becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker would be one of the best ways to make this happen.
Now, after attending UNC School of Social Work, I have found that one of the greatest features of the graduate program is that you don’t need to know exactly what job you want to do before enrolling. This is because there are so many useful experiences during your education that will help you figure that out, as well as so many different opportunities awaiting you after graduation. One of the most valuable components, in my mind, is that the program gives you hands on experience and skills that qualify you for a wide range of positions in the helping professions — whether it’s mental health, medicine, advocacy work, community organization, consulting, or the nonprofit sector in general. For my own path, I’m glad that I took my professor’s advice. I needed the time and work experiences I had to even realize that the field of Social Work was for me. But now that I’ve found it, I’ve also come to see that few other programs prepare you for a field with such a wide variety of careers to choose from: therapist, consultant, executive director, fundraiser, researcher, and more. For anyone passionate about social justice, mental health, and helping others, there are plenty of options awaiting you on the other side of that MSW degree!